If you’re a fan of sci-fi stories set in a dystopian, Dickensian future of rampant immorality and violence, or have simply been wondering why M. Night Shamalayan doesn’t meld Twelve Monkeys with Rambo and bring back Bruce Willis to help him do it, you’re in luck. Looper stars an intense Joseph Gordon-Levitt, nearly unrecognizable in prosthetics, contacts and distractingly heavy makeup that renders his face nearly 2D, as young Joe, a 25-year-old looper in the year 2042, and Willis himself as Joe 30 years into the future, in the year 2072.
If it weren’t futile, I’d try to give a summary of Looper‘s extremely intricate, convoluted and possibly hole-ridden plot. Suffice it to say that it involves fate, paid killers, Chinese mafia, secret bunkers, telekinesis, good-hearted prostitutes and the toddler tantrums to end all toddler tantrums. And that after the screening I attended, critics stood around in heated discussion for quite a while, trying to work it all out.
Writer/director Rian Johnson has packed an awful lot of story into Looper‘s near 2 hours, so much so that I was convinced the movie was into its third act in only its first half hour. This movie takes so many twists and turns that the fact that the ending not only manages to braid most of it together but resonate emotionally, is an incredible achievement.
Jeff Bridges turns in a jovially terrifying performance as bad mafia leader-of-the-far-future Abe. Emily Blunt doesn’t know how to be anything but galvanizing, even in the improbable role of a country-talking, shotgun-blasting mother farming by her lonesome in the middle of nowhere. As for Bruce Willis, he never has to win us to his side.
We’re there without being asked. And everything seems to speed up when he’s onscreen. Which is a good thing. Because the first third of this film can feel a bit thick and turgid. That’s about when I looked at the time and was shocked to find only half an hour had passed. And then Willis appears, just in time.
Piper Perabo’s devoted mother/sweet prostitute role is as commonplace an affectation as the steam punk time travel bathosphere, and the old-timey Wild West analog pocket watches, but these are tiny quibbles. Looper is a sweeping, fast-paced and very impressive action thriller that will delight fans of prime directive conundrums and quantum physics dilemmas. For the rest of us, the movie’s great style and acting can still carry the day.